Architecture doesn’t just happen, it is a coincidence of forces, a conspiracy of requirements, expectations, regulations and, hopefully, visions. It requires collaboration and its success is subject to the quality of that collaboration. This participation is not just between professionals but undertaken together with society, those who commission, regulate and most importantly occupy our buildings and cities.
It is tempting to imagine that good architecture is the consequence of freedom, both intellectual and practical, but the understanding of limits, the coordination of constraints and negotiation with resistance are fundamental to a healthy architectural culture. It is only through dialogue and a willingness to understand the diverse concerns and responsibilities involved in the process of making architecture that these forces can be coordinated towards a significant result.
If we accept this then we must also accept that good architecture is not just dependent on genius nor can it only be achieved only through confrontation and despite circumstances. Individual talent and creativity depend on and contribute to a rich and complex culture of shared affinities, references and predicaments that give validity and meaning, not only to architecture, but to its place in society.
I have invited my colleagues to examine what we share over what distinguishes us from one another, and in so doing to demonstrate that the quality of architecture depends on common values, efforts and visions. We must not forget that as we plan our future we are always building on what has come before.
Common Ground gives us the excuse to consider the efforts of architects not as solitary and fashionable gestures but as part of a rich and continuous investigation of intellectual, social and physical ideas, given purpose not only by their shared concerns but by the desire to make a meaningful contribution to our physical world.
David Chipperfield. First room of the 13th Venice Biennale.
‘Common Ground’ provokes us to admit the continuities and influences that I believe define our profession. The phrase also tries to train our attention on the city, which is our area of expertise and activity, but also something created in collaboration with every citizen, and the many stakeholders and participants in the process of building.
The theme of the Biennale was a provocation to my colleagues to demonstrate their commitment to these shared and common values, encouraging them away from a monographic presentation of their work, towards a portrait of the collaborations and affinities behind their work. That they have all engaged in this with such commitment and energy is a testament to them and confirmation of what we know but don’t articulate sufficiently: that despite our different concerns, backgrounds and points of view we do indeed share ‘common ground’.
David Chipperfield. Map of the 13th Venice Biennale.